Posted : 2009-08-05 17:45
Updated : 2009-08-05 17:45

US-N. Korea Economic, Military Talks Likely to Follow

By Kim Sue-young
Staff Reporter

Mission accomplished! But what will happen after the safe return of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the two journalists detained in North Korea?

Experts on North Korea-related affairs say that his trip will likely help improve the relations between the United States and North Korea.

``North Korea also wants to solve problems through dialogue as part of its strategy `prosperity and survivor in the 21st Century,''' Prof. Paik Hak-soon of the Sejong Institute told The Korea Times.

Saying that Clinton's landmark trip to the isolated state softened the current confrontational situation, Paik said, ``Concrete negotiations regarding economic and military issues will likely follow.''

After North Korea launched a long-range rocket April 5 and conducted a second nuclear test May 25, the United States pushed ahead with a series of sanctions for the prickly state.

Pyongyang declared a permanent boycott of the six-party denuclearization talks, and tensions heightened as the two countries exchanged verbal tussles last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the North ``childish,'' and representatives retorted by sarcastically calling her a ``funny lady.''

Former U.S. President Clinton's surprise visit to the reclusive state brought the fruitful result of freeing the two journalists, but North Korea and the United States have been showing different views of his status.

North Korean media indicated he was a special envoy of President Barack Obama, saying that he ``courteously conveyed a verbal message of the U.S. president expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries.''

The United States, however, denied the special envoy mission, with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs saying it was a ``solely private mission.''

Prof. Paik said the Obama administration appeared to be cautious about Clinton's official status due to public opinion in the United States.

``North Korea has been perceived as an `axis of evil,' so my understanding is that the administration is trying not to give too much shock to its people through the trip,'' he said.

The nation also appeared to avoid the risk by defining his trip as low profile, the professor said.

``It must be burdensome for the administration if expectations are too high,'' he said. ``It seems to be politically calculated behavior.''

Through the rare Washington-Pyongyang talks, North Korea may get some benefits as well.

``It paved the way for future two-way talks between the United States and North Korea,'' said Prof. Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

He continued, ``The North also could show off that its leader is still vigorous and takes control of the country as usual.''

Unlike the rosy prospects of the U.S.-North Korea relations, skeptical views are cast regarding the inter-Korean relations.

``Progress in talks between the United States and North Korea could positively affect inter-Korean issues,'' Prof. Yang said. ``But the chilled inter-Korean relations will likely linger since investigations into a South Korean detainee and a seized boat are underway.''

A 44-year-old man, working in a joint industrial complex in Gaeseong, North Korea, has been detained since late March for allegedly insulting the North Korean regime and attempting to entice a North Korean woman to defect to the South.

A fishing boat, ``800 Yeonan,'' and its four crewmen on board were seized after it accidentally crossed over into North Korean territory last Thursday.
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